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John Mertens

John Mertens

I remember when John Mertens was hired as the executive director of the Ozark Regional Library, replacing the retiring Gertrude Zimmer. Miss Zimmer had been director of the ORL since its creation, pretty much, and was legendary through the four-county region. (Gertrude passed away in 2011 at age 102, by the way).

But John leaped into the position with zest and became just as much a fixture around the eastern Ozarks as Miss Zimmer had been. He championed libraries around the Ozarks and kept the regional library system solvent in a time of ever-shrinking budgets and anti-intellectual sentiment. When I was a young newspaper reporter, I would drive the 40 miles to Ironton once a month to participate in the Great Books Club discussion. It was the closest thing the eastern Ozarks had to a “salon,” and I was fortunate to meet some incredibly wise and well-read people there.

John retired this past year and a new director has taken over, whom I have not yet met. May his tenure be as long and productive as his predecessors’!